IT evaluates options as Google Apps Internet Explorer 8 support ends

Google says older browsers don't have the chops to support Google Apps anymore. IE8 and Windows XP shops may want to choose a new browser or OS.

Google Apps shops that run Internet Explorer 8 and Windows XP will soon have to reconsider their browser and OS choices.

IE9 is more of an HTML 5-compliant Web browser.

Jason Follas,
architect and Web developer, Perficient Inc.

Google will discontinue Apps support for Microsoft's Internet Explorer 8 (IE8) -- the last version of the browser supported by Windows XP -- on Nov. 15. The news leaves Windows XP shops with a choice: upgrade to a new Windows operating system, which also almost certainly means upgrading to new hardware, or install an alternate browser, such as Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox, to run Google Apps.

"Even in the IT support space, we don't like to see XP desktops, so … I think this is something that will change the market in line with everyone's long-term best interests," said Tony Safoian, president and CEO SADA Systems Inc., a of Los Angeles-based Google Apps reseller.

Shops that run Windows XP, Microsoft's 11-year-old OS, are an ever-shrinking minority, but they do still exist; 39.6% of 420 respondents to TechTarget's Windows Endpoint Purchasing Intentions 2012 Survey said they still run the OS. Microsoft will end support for XP in 2014.

Dealing with the end of Google Apps Internet Explorer 8 support

Some shops still in the midst of upgrading XP to Windows 7 say the transition has been made smoother because they proactively migrated to Chrome for Google Apps, meaning they don't have to worry about switching browsers as they upgrade their OS.

With Chrome, Google Apps admins can also create desktop shortcuts that appear to be typical application icons. If a user wants to use Gmail, for example, he or she can just click on a Mail icon that is actually Chrome-based.

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"When we moved to Google Apps on our managed desktops, we actually installed Chrome, but we did that because we wanted it to look like [end users'] standard applications," said Marc Hoit, vice chancellor for information technology and CIO at North Carolina State University.

Other applications on campus Internet Explorer, but the school has already moved on to IE9 and above.

"We don't expect it to be a problem," Hoit said.

Meanwhile, some industry watchers see the end of Google Apps Internet Explorer 8 support as a potentially beneficial move for Google.

"Google apparently sees an opportunity to switch users to its browser," said Al Hilwa, analyst with Framingham, Mass.-based IDC.

However, "Firefox is just as likely of a beneficiary of this because of Google's reputation on data privacy," Hilwa said.

Google's pledge of support for a "Do Not Track" option in Chrome potentially improves the browser's chances of enterprise adoption, he added.

HTML 5 or bust

Google announced the end of IE8 support in a brief blog post last week, citing its policy of supporting only the current version of Internet Explorer and its predecessor. (IE10 comes out next month.) The post also linked to a statement from last year about Google's general intention to support modern browsers, meaning those that support the HTML 5 protocol.

IE8 technically supports some aspects of HTML 5, but not all.

"There were still some quirks about the way IE8 rendered things, whereas IE9 is more of an HTML 5-compliant Web browser," said Jason Follas, an architect and Web developer for Perficient Inc., a St. Louis-based IT consultancy.

In the meantime, when it comes to Web applications such as Google Apps, the trend is toward more processing and computing work being done at the browser level -- instead of in the cloud -- than ever before. HTML 5 browsers accommodate this trend by performing such tasks as desktop notific ations and drag-and-drop file uploads, in the case of Google Apps.

"That makes the decision about what browsers are to be used," Follas said.

Beth Pariseau is a senior news writer for SearchCloudComputing.com and SearchServerVirtualization.com. Write to her at bpariseau@techtarget.com or follow @PariseauTTon Twitter.

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